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Pittsburgh Over the Workbench
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Iterative design improves an N scale layout

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania of the transition and early-diesel era is a great theme for a model railroad: many different prototypes, large industries, varying topography that created multiple levels of track, etc. The layout owner, an experienced N scaler, was planning an island layout to fit over his large workbench. The size is a little flexible, but the original concept was thirty to thirty-six inches by nine to ten feet.

The primary prototype would be the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie, with some interchange with at least one other railroad. The use of multiple layout levels was an important feature, along with a spot for one of more of the railroad bridges typical of the area.


The owner had done some preliminary sketching to set the general outlines of the layout, but was having some trouble getting everything to fit as desired. In particular, the track to the upper level seemed too steep and too curved for reliable operation. Working with his original sketches, I developed a to-scale CAD rendering that represents a more workable design in the same space.

The small industry/branch yard has been moved out to the layout edge, allowing it to be longer and making access more straightforward. The track climbing to the upper deck can now wrap nearly halfway round the layout, significantly lessening the grade and radius required. Space for a number of industries and a useful yard lead have been added to provide more operating utility and interest.

The owner appreciated the help in getting him "unstuck" and is now modifying the design a bit more based on some additional ideas that have come up in the meantime. The multiple design passes have allowed this layout to evolve nicely. It will be very interesting to see the final form it takes!

Copyright 2004 by Byron Henderson

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